LOUISVILLE —Fallout from the pending expiration of a tax credit for renewable energy hit Boulder County this week when Vestas Wind Systems announced it is closing its offices here.
The Danish wind turbine manufacturer plans to shut down its research and development operations on Centennial Parkway in the next three to six months. Vestas employs about 60 workers in Louisville.
The move marks a shift in plans for Vestas Wind Systems, which just a month ago said it would consolidate its three primary research and development operations in the United States — based in Louisville, Colo., Marlborough, Mass., and Houston, Texas — to its offices in Brighton, Colo.
Now, it has decided to shut down its research and development in Colorado altogether.
In all, about 85 employees are expected to lose their jobs with the shuttering of the three offices.
"This is a difficult decision to part with dedicated and talented people who contributed to Vestas' success," the company said in a prepared statement.
Vestas, which keeps its U.S. headquarters in Portland, Ore., has slashed hundreds of jobs in Colorado — and about 4,000 worldwide — in large part because Congress has so far declined to extend a wind production tax credit that President George H.W. Bush first signed into law in 1992. The credit gives owners of wind energy farms a 2.2 cents-per-kilowatt credit on their U.S. income taxes annually for the first decade of the wind farm’s existence. It has been extended in years' past. It is now set to expire at the end of 2012.
Eight of Colorado’s nine congressional delegates — five Democrats and three Republicans – support the extension of the tax. The lone holdout in the state is U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican. U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, have been especially vocal in their support of the tax credit, regularly giving speeches on the Senate floor and in the media about its importance.
So far, the proposals to extend the tax credit haven't gained enough traction with the rest of Congress.
“These layoffs are symptomatic of larger problems in Washington, where even bipartisan bills get politicized and stymied,” Udall said in a prepared statement Thursday. “The opponents of extending the PTC are treating our energy security — and ultimately our national security — as a political football. These layoffs are on their hands. Our nation needs to follow Colorado’s example of pursuing an all-of-the-above energy portfolio that will create jobs and improve the environment. We can't put this off any longer.”
Nationally, expiration of the wind production tax credit could cost as many as 37,000 jobs, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Colorado generates the third highest percentage of power from wind of any state in the nation.
Vestas will continue to employ over 1,200 workers in Colorado at its wind turbine manufacturing plants in Brighton, Pueblo and Windsor. It employs 2,600 workers in North America. The company noted that it also closed some other research and development offices in China, Denmark and Singapore earlier this year to streamline operations and cut costs. Vestas spokesman Andrew Longeteig said the company has reduced its research and development employee base by about 20 percent compared with 2011 and that it will continue to operate six research and development locations around the world.
"Vestas has adopted a flexible business strategy during a period of changing market dynamics in the wind industry," the company statement said. "Vestas will continue to scale up or down depending on business needs and market demands."